Someone with three children recently wrote an article on the secret to being a happy mother.
Her secret: outsourcing all the tedious jobs of childcare and domestic chores to a team of hired help. Ms Katie Hopkin’s idea of happiness is to acknowledge that there’s nothing wrong with employing other women to do all the traditional ‘female’ job in the house, from sewing to cooking to mothering the kids. She argues that women with potential and capability should live guilt-free to pursue high-flying careers.
It’s high-flyers like her who keep others at work, she says. High-flyers like her get a supply of nannies to watch her son run on sports day and her daughters sing at concerts because they prefer to “find something productive to do rather than engage in all the amorphous domesticity that being a mother seems to involve”.
She’s clearly misunderstood what being a mother really means. It’s probably just all about the sex, pregnancy and delivery. And having a uterus, that is. I wonder if she would outsource these if she could.
She clearly did not ask her children if they are happy with this arrangement. A happy mother doesn’t always equal happy kids, mind you. And being happy now doesn’t necessarily mean you would be happy in the future. I’m not sure if she would still be happy if her kids hired five nurses to care for her in old age to pursue their high-flying careers.
While I agree that most of us, if given a choice, wouldn’t want to do the mundane tasks at home if we could afford to employ people who can do them on our behalf, I draw the line at my intention of outsourcing.
I have a helper because the outsourcing gives me more quality time with my children, allows me to be around and available for them and provides me with a more comfortable (read: cleaner) environment to live in. Like being able to read a book after dinner and not having to worry about the dishes. Or doing some crafting and painting without needing to spend the next hour vacuuming the glitter and paper shreds.
And that is that. I still step into the kitchen to cook and bake, clean and mop the house so the helper gets to rest, help to fold the clothes and scrub the toilets because I want them to have memories of their mother doing so. How can I teach them values and life skills if I don’t do some of these things too? I want them to remember fondly that Mama bathed them, fed them, cleaned up their mess and hung around when they fell ill; that Mama took pride in keeping the house organized and comfortable; that Mama’s not a lazy, pompous ass.
And most importantly, that Mama mothered them.
Some of my fondest memories I have of my mum are the times she baked and cooked in the kitchen, and making me soups and herbal tea when I fell ill. I shudder to think of the memories I’d have of her if she was a high-flying career women who never attended any of my book prize award presentations or baked me any birthday cakes.
Even if I have the money, I wouldn’t outsource things that would rob my children of memories of me. Someday, the kids will grow up. Someday, they will reminisce. Someday, when I am gone, I want them to be able to say:
“I remember Mama watched me sing at my recital. She even ironed my shirt the night before.”
“Mama always made chicken soup for me on rainy days.”
“Mama bakes the best cakes.”
“Mama was always around for us.”
I wouldn’t want it to be Aunty so-and so, or anyone else.
My secret to being a happy mother? Living every day creating happy moments, even if it’s just one moment a day. You can’t do that if you outsource.